By Katie Watt
Kate Gibbs has lived her whole life with Cerebral Palsy (CP). The unique perspective that she gained from living with the condition is one of the many things helping to fuel her new project. Recently, Ms. Gibbs began delivering presentations to educators within Rocky Mountain School District #6, about people like herself who live with disabilities. While most people cannot share Ms. Gibb’s experience, they can definitely learn from it, and learn to help others too.
In her presentations, Ms. Gibbs talks about four main ideas: how to teach students with special needs, how to involve them, how to connect with them, and how to interact with parents. Many of the topics she shares are drawn from the reservoir of her own experience.
To Ms. Gibbs, a diversability (a term she uses often to describe the spectrum of disabilities) impacts much more than a person’s biology.
“CP doesn’t just affect me physically: it has affected the experiences I’ve had and the relationships I’ve made. It has affected everything in my life,” she says. “It’s said over and over again that people with diversabilities want to be seen like everyone else. But that can set such a standard and make us feel like we have to be able to do what everyone else can. For me, I’ve never liked to ignore the fact that I have CP because it has brought so much into my life.”
So far, Ms. Gibbs has given three presentations to teachers and special education aids within the school district. She stresses that the presentations are important for people living with and without diversabilities.
The idea for the project popped into Ms. Gibbs’ head randomly, but she was very eager to pursue it.
“When you have a diversability, you get a lot of attention and help, and the focus is on you. I feel like I’m always saying thank you; I love all the help I’m receiving, but it’s so nice to give help too.” Ms. Gibbs said also that she’s always loved school, and has had a lot of respect for teachers and aids, and this is her way of giving back to them.
Ms. Gibbs is involved with Access the Valley, but this project is separate from that.
“This is the first bigger thing that I’ve thought up on my own. My friends have been supporting me the whole time, and they push me to keep going.”
While Ms. Gibbs says the feeling of educating others about diversabilities is amazing, she has reservations about one thing in particular.
“Every diversability is on a spectrum. Since I have moderate case of CP, sometimes it feels weird to be representing a whole bunch of other diversabilities; I just want to feel like I’m doing a good job of that.”
Her potential solution to this, however, is bringing guest speakers to her presentations to represent a wider variety of diversabilities.
Adding guest speakers to her presentations isn’t all Ms. Gibbs is aiming for in the future. She would like to continue giving presentations to teachers, but she would also like to become more involved with students as well, and maybe even expand her presentations to other school districts. Very far down the line, she hopes to be a mentor, she says, offering the example of her being an aid to students with CP by helping them navigate the tricky path of school that she managed to chart over the years.
If you are interested in learning more about Ms. Gibbs’ presentations or to book her for an inclusion workshop, phone 250-342-1552 or email email@example.com.